Things suspected of being April Fool jokes, that really weren't
During the Thirty Years' War, the Duke of Lorraine
and his wife were held as prisoners within the walls of Nancy, the capital city of Lorraine, at the orders of the King of France. But on April 1, 1634, the Duke and Duchess escaped by disguising themselves as peasants and walking out through the front gate of the city. Their escape was almost foiled when a peasant recognized them and ran to tell a soldier, who communicated the news to his commanding officer. However, it being April 1st, the officer thought he was being made an April Fool (or a Poisson d'Avril, as the French say) and didn't believe the report. By the time the French realized the report of the escape wasn't a joke, the Duke and Duchess were too far away to be overtaken.
"Monday forenoon we received by stage from Captain Jackson of the Jackson ranch a beautiful pair of rattlesnakes which had been captured by some of his cowboys. We were arranging to forward them to Chicago and left the box for an hour or so on the front steps of The Kicker office. For fear that some idiot would come along and stick his finger into one of the holes bored for ventilation we printed and hunt out a sign of "Don't Poke!" It hadn't been out 10 minutes when that old critter of a Bill Henderson came along, and being about half slewed he took the sign and the box for an April fool joke and deliberately poked.
We got out just as he yelled, one of the snakes having bitten him, of course. We ran him into the butcher shop and cut off the finger and sent for a doctor, and during the next hour we got three quarts of whisky down his neck. He is still drunk, but the poison has been neutralized, and he will come out on top. The next time he sees a hole and a sign of "Don't Poke!" he will probably stop to find out whether the hole is an underground route to Tombstone or stops short against something with teeth. He can have his missing finger by calling at this office, though we believe we could legally claim it as a relic."
[The Gazette and Farmers' Journal
— Apr 27, 1893]
Hundreds of pedestrians ignored a neatly wrapped turkey lying in the center of the intersection of Fourteenth and Webster because "it was April fool's day and only a fool would pick up a package on April 1." Eventually the driver of the butcher wagon, who had accidentally dropped it there, returned to collect it. He expressed gratitude that everyone had been too "wise'" to take off with the free turkey. [Oakland Tribune
, Apr 1, 1920]
(Or maybe they didn't pick it up because they didn't want to eat meat found lying in the street!)
"After more than twenty people passed an old pocket book on Main Street, yesterday, thinking it was an April Fool joke, along came Joel Hancock from Hootstown and picked it up — it contained three one dollar bills."
When fire station No. 2 in High Point, North Carolina received an emergency call from fire station No. 1, they decided not to respond, thinking it must be an April Fool gag. They were incorrect. It turned out that fire station No. 1 really was on fire. An explosion had resulted in flames which damaged their truck. [Waterloo Sunday Courier
, Apr 2, 1950.]
At London's St. James' Club, on April 1, four perfect bridge hands (a full suit) were dealt at the same table. The odds of this happening were estimated to be 53,644,737,765,488,792,839,237,440,000 to 1. The players had to convince other club members that the perfect hands were not a hoax. The duke of Marlborough, with 13 spades, held the winning hand. [Chicago Daily Tribune
, Apr 3, 1959.]
Residents of St. Joseph, Missouri who received a notice on April 1st informing them they had been selected for jury duty thought the notices were a joke and none of them showed up. Deputy sheriffs had to make a special trip to their homes to inform them that the summons were real. The Sheriff's Department later made a special plea to the circuit judges: "Please don't draw a panel of jurors on April Fool's Day again." [The Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune
- Apr 3, 1959]
George Morris of Safford, Arizona woke to find a full-grown elephant eating lilies in his backyard. He assumed it had to be some kind of elaborate April Fool’s Day joke. It wasn’t. But when he called the police to report the animal to them, they initially refused to believe he was telling the truth. Finally they sent over some officers. It turned out that “Dumbo” had been accidentally left behind by a circus that had pulled up stakes the night before. The circus was notified and a van was sent to pick up Dumbo. [The Ada Evening News
- Apr 3, 1960.]
An attempted robbery was reported in El Rio, California. A burglar spent hours using an acetylene torch to try to cut open a safe in the Leonard Anderson Well Drilling Co. office. When he failed at this, he tried to guess the combination. Finally, he gave up and left. Fred Rush, manager of the company, commented, "He just wouldn't believe the sign. We put it there because we don't know the combination. Now the joke's on us. When the yeggman tried to work the combination he set the lock and now we can't open the safe ourselves."
The sign on the safe (which the burglar ignored) read, "This safe is not locked." It wasn't. [Los Angeles Times
- Apr 2, 1960.]
As East Haven Fire Chief Thomas J. Hayes was watching a ventriloquism show at the New Haven Arena, the ventriloquist announced that there was a message for Hayes: the Edgewater Beach Club was on fire. Hayes laughed as the ventriloquist repeated the message.
Finally a receptionist was sent to alert Hayes that the message was true and that he needed to join his men. The fire department, at a loss about how to locate Hayes in the audience, had asked the ventriloquist to deliver the message. Hayes, however, interpreted the message as a prank on him.
The unoccupied beach club burned to the ground. [Meriden Record
- Apr 2, 1963]
London's Daily Telegraph
ran an article about a curious new device called the "Barnes Wallis Moth Machine," which was a microlight airplane that could skim over the Indonesian rainforest canopy at speeds up to 50 mph, scooping up moths as it went. It attracted the moths by means of powerful ultraviolet lights mounted on its front. The machine was said to have been given its name because it used the same technology as the 617 Squadron which released Barnes Wallis's bouncing bombs during the Dambuster raids of 1943. There were plans to use the machine on a scientific expedition to the Bengkulu region of the island of Sumatra — the first such expedition since Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles's expedition there in 1820.
subsequently identified this story as an April Fool's Day joke. However, the joke was on the Guardian
, because the Barnes Wallis Moth Machine was quite real. As the Daily Telegraph
later gloated, "our science editor's lepidopterous scoop was genuine."
Holiday-makers flying back to Britain from Tenerife were told by their pilot that they could not land because an air traffic controller was on a tea break. The passengers initially thought his announcement was an April Fool's Day joke, but it wasn't. The plane had to circle for almost half an hour before the air traffic controller came back to work.